The Hound of the Baskervilles – The Lowry

When Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, it was in response to public outrage when he killed off Sherlock Holmes in his previous story, The Final Problem. With no option but to bring back his famous detective, he wrote a completely absurd novel about a noble family being haunted by a demonic ‘gigantic hound’. Naturally, it was a hit, and became a much-loved classic.

Niall-Ransome-Jake-Ferretti-Serena-Manteghi-in-Hound-of-the-Baskervilles.-Photo-Pamela-Raith-Lowry Theatre Manchester Theatre Review
Picture Credit – Pamela Raith.

Adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson, this farcical comedy version of Conan Doyle’s story started life at Bolton Octagon Theatre, before embarking on this UK tour. It remains relatively true to the original story, with the laughs coming from physical comedy and a razor-sharp script, which provides clever wordplay and amusing jokes at a breakneck pace.

What makes The Hound of the Baskervilles so brilliant is that the entire thing is performed by only three actors, who inhabit a plethora of different characters, in a frantic style, similar to The 39 Steps. This is where this comedy delivers plenty of belly-laughs and shows the versatility and skill of the actors performing it.

The frenetic pace of character changes was handled with seamless precision. From where I was sat in the theatre, I could see into the wings, where stagehands ensured that these changes were completed at an astonishing speed, even when the actor needed to change their entire costume. In what must have been an exhausting play to perform, they did a fantastic job and deserve applauding for it.

Niall-Ransome-Jake-Ferretti-Serena-Manteghi-in-Hound-of-the-Baskervilles.-Photo-Pamela-Raith-Lowry Theatre Manchester Theatre Review
Picture Credit – Pamela Raith.

Leading our cast of three, Niall Ransome plays Doctor Watson and has fewer character changes than the other two actors, due to Watson being the main person investigating the sightings of the hound in Dartmoor. Sherlock Holmes seemingly stays behind in London.

Ransome plays Watson with deadpan humour and a great deal of trigger-happy silliness. It’s not surprising to see that Ransome has worked with Mischief Theatre in the past, because The Hound of the Baskervilles has the same type of physical slapstick comedy, and Ransome’s experience shows in spades. His skillful performance is delivered with perfect comedic timing and priceless facial expressions. A homage to the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin goes down a storm.

Jake Ferretti plays Conan Doyle’s consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, in addition to a multitude of other characters. An outrageous beard transforms him into the suspicious housekeeper Mr Barrymore. Donning an eye patch and a crutch, Ferretti is delightfully menacing as Jack Stapleton. He seems to revel in these villainous characters, but it is his performance as Jack’s “SISTER!” that is even more fantastically outlandish. With a dodgy Spanish accent, Ferretti deliberately hams up the role of Miss Stapleton, engaging in an amusing romance with Sir Henry Baskerville, including rib-busting, hilarious tango dancing.

Niall-Ransome-Jake-Ferretti-Serena-Manteghi-in-Hound-of-the-Baskervilles.-Photo-Pamela-Raith-Lowry Theatre Manchester Theatre Review
Picture Credit – Pamela Raith.

Although all three actors are talented, it is Serena Manteghi who steals the show for me, particularly with her performance as principle goofball, Sir Henry Baskerville. By protruding her teeth, Manteghi brilliantly spoofs her character’s stereotype as a Canadian toff, which is made even funnier because of the admission that she ‘can’t do’ a Canadian accent. Whenever Manteghi was on stage as Sir Henry, I smiled instantly because of her eccentric mannerisms, whether in a Victorian steam room, or doing nightly exercises before bed.

Although there’s a gorgeous backdrop of Baskerville Manor, which illuminates in correspondence with the plot, there’s a distinct lack of other scenery. The stage is bare, and the eerie atmosphere of the moors is rendered though Derek Anderson‘s astute lighting design, and Andy Graham‘s sound compositions. Combined with a great deal of fog from smoke machines, the boggy marshland of Grimpen Mire, and the threat of the hound comes alive.

As a massive Sherlock Holmes fan, I am probably completely biased, but The Hound of the Baskervilles is a much needed ‘Seven Percent Solution’ injection of comedy that I absolutely needed after ten days of self-isolation.

It has honestly been years since I have laughed as hard as I did tonight.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Hound of the Baskervilles is on at The Lowry until Saturday 5th February. Tickets are available from The Lowry’s website.

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